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Giant (Agave) Skipper

Agathymus sp.

Giant Skipper, Agathymus, photo © by Mike Plagens

This giant skipper was observed along Rackensack Wash north of Carefree, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Oct. 2009.

Most skipper butterflies are rather small, usually 25mm or less in wingspan. Giant Skippers are not only much larger, 75 mm or more, they are capable of strong fast flight. Skippers (Hesperiidae), a diverse and distinct group of butterflies. Giant Skippers of several species are found at the upper elevations of the Sonoran Desert where agave plants are more prevalent. Also known as Agave Skippers because the immature caterpillar stage tunnels into leaves and shoots of agaves.

Each species of Agathymus tends to feed upon just a single agave species. Separating the different species solely on the basis of wing marks is a tricky business. The most common agave near where this butterfly was photographed is Toumey's Shin Dagger (Agave toumeyana) which would suggest that I have here Agathymus polingi.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010